A Historical Look at the Chateau Marmont

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From world-famous ateliers to designer hotspots, Historical Interiors is your weekly column for iconic decor, rare residential imagery, and cultural fashion landmarks.

Perched on a hill on the north side of Los Angeles’ Sunset Boulevard, the Chateau Marmont borrows its architectural style from Château d’Amboise in France’s Loire Valley with its faux gothic details. And its history with Hollywood runs deep in its roots. Named after the small street that hugs the property, the hotel remains famous—and equally infamous—within the film industry as a refuge for notorious behavior. “If you must get into trouble, do it at the Marmont,” said Harry Cohn, Head of Columbia Pictures in the 1930s. As legend goes, he told this to William Holden and Glenn Ford, and that somehow sealed the hotel’s future. Since then, celebrities cannot help themselves but to return to this castle nestled at the foot of the Hollywood Hills.

Opened in 1929, the Chateau Marmont was originally conceived as a luxury apartment building. However, the owners at the time struggled to keep tenants during the Depression, so in 1931 it was refashioned as a hotel. Some suites to this day have still retained their kitchens from that time period with new but classically designed appliances. But what has endured throughout the hotel is an old Hollywood charm—especially in its cozy, communal spaces. The interior design has an understated, relaxed feel: mismatched brocade fauteuils and plush, vintage-inspired sofas within the dimly lit, wooden-beamed lobby. The numerous gothic arches and ornate ceilings transport guests to a majestic, European-influenced estate with an outdoor pool and garden veranda both framed in lush, green landscapes.

And if these hotel walls could talk, they could tell story upon story of celebrity behavior. Filmmaker and regular guest, Matt Tyrnauer once admitted: “It’s been a place where you can disappear right in the middle of Hollywood…a no-tell motel with high-thread count sheets.” Incidentally, the hotel’s mascot is Pan, the Greek god with a half man-half beast body that symbolizes lust and sexuality. With that, it may come as no surprise that Johnny Depp claimed that he and ex-girlfriend Kate Moss made love in all 63 rooms (including 23 suites and four bungalows). Or Scarlett Johansson and Benicio Del Toro might have had sex in an elevator. Or a young Jean Harlow had an affair with Clark Gable while she was on her third honeymoon with cinematographer Harold Rosson.

And with its mythic past, some unfortunate events have unfolded here: comedian John Belushi died of a drug overdose in Bungalow three. And fashion photographer Helmut Newton, accidentally crashed his Cadillac into one of the walls of the Chateau and was killed. Amongst these trysts and tragedies, the Chateau Marmont continues to host a mix of both good and bad visitors. While the staff is accommodating and the sky is almost the limit for its guests, the hotel management can and will enforce a ban. Most notably, Britney Spears was blacklisted for smearing food on her face. And Lindsay Lohan was asked to leave the hotel after she racked up around ,000 worth of charges to her room bill from cigarettes, candles, and the minibar.

Despite the drama, the Chateau Marmont has been a muse to many, and has appeared in films including Almost Famous, Four Rooms, The Doors, Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere and recently at the end of La La Land. Some might say the Eagles’ haunting song “Hotel California” might have been written about the Chateau Marmont, and Lana Del Rey croons about the hotel in her single, “Off to the Races,” and even included the Chateau Marmont in her video “Video Games.” Just a few months ago, the Chateau Marmont took the lead role of Gucci’s 2019 cruise collection with its logo prominently on bags, t-shirts, and cloaks. And never one to mince words—especially when it comes to travel—the late Anthony Bourdain went on record to say, “I love that hotel above all others.”

Its history might be partly scandalous, but the Chateau Marmont still stands distinctly on one of the most famous streets in Los Angeles—even after it has withstood multiple earthquakes. In 1976, it earned historical landmark status. And with a litany of angelic and devilish guests, the hotel respects confidentiality. André Balazs, owner of the Chateau Marmont, once explained: “The Chateau is about discretion, it’s about privacy, and it’s about allowing people to be who they feel they need to be.”

In other words, or as they say in Tinseltown, the Chateau Marmont steals the show.

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